Many qualified people with disabilities believe getting an accommodation at work from their employer is as simple as making a request, and that they are entitled to whatever accommodation they believe will allow them to most easily perform their job. However, there are steps both employers and employees must take regarding a request for accommodation. Moreover, an employer is not obligated to provide an employee the accommodation he/she requests or prefers. Rather, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) only requires employers to provide accommodations that are reasonable.
Reasonable Accommodations Could Include:
- Job restructuring
- Part-time or modified work schedules
- Reassignment to a vacant position
- Acquisition or modification of equipment or devices
- Appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations
- Training materials or policies
- The provision of qualified readers or interpreters
- Other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities
One common example of a reasonable accommodation might be for a grocery store to allow one of its cashiers to use a stool to sit if he/she struggles with standing for extended periods of time. In more extreme situations where a person can no longer perform the essential functions of his/her current position due to disability, an employer may reasonably accommodate that person by moving him/her to another available position within the company. Of course, the person must be able to perform the essential functions of that available position, either with or without reasonable accommodation.
If In Need of Accommodation in Your Workplace
- You must first inform your employer of your disability and need for accommodation
- You and your employer must then begin an interactive process involving your healthcare provider(s) in order to gather information and evidence regarding the nature of your disability, severity, duration, activities limited by the disability and the extent to which the disability limits your ability to perform your essential job functions
- Once your employer has that information, they will be able to review the same and make their own determination as to whether your disability really does prevent you from being able to perform the essential functions of your job and whether any reasonable accommodation can be made to keep you as an employee of the company, even if in a different job and/or capacity.
It is important to bear in mind that an accommodation is not reasonable if it would create undue hardship to the employer. In determining whether the requested accommodation would create undue hardship, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) looks at the cost of the accommodation in relation to the company’s financial stability, whether modifications would be unduly extensive or disruptive, and/or whether the modification would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the job or the company. If there is no reasonable accommodation that would enable an employee to perform the essential functions of his/her position or another available position within the company, that employee is not a “qualified individual with a disability” and may be terminated. In such a case, that termination would not constitute wrongful discrimination.
If you have questions about requesting an accommodation, or if your employer has denied a request, it is important to know your rights under the ADA. Please call for a free consultation if you have any questions about accommodations in the workplace.